Classroom Critters Details
Once you’ve performed thousands of small-group, live animal touch programs, you know what works… and what doesn’t. It is Zooniversity’s goal to have every audience member leave our Classroom Critters show with pleasant memories that will long be remembered—and to make the management of the event be as simple as possible for you. Please take the time to carefully read through this section to insure a fun and safe time for all.
How does Classroom Critters work?
Classroom Critters is our small group touch education program for fewer than 20 students, ages 6 years and older. It’s ideal multi-sensory enrichment program for schools, day care, libraries, churches, scouts, clubs and community services. Our presenter will bring out one exotic animal at a time and teach the audience all about it. We adjust the curriculum for the age and abilities of the audience, but we usually cover where the animals come from, what they eat, interesting behaviors, how they defend themselves, etc. We are also always happy to customize the curriculum to supplement your specific lesson plans. Let us know in advance if there is something special you would like us to emphasize or avoid or if you have religious beliefs that you would like us to honor. Next, we walk the animal around the circle and, as long as your students are following our safety rules, they may each gently touch the animal. All of our programs end with an out-loud audience quiz—to reinforce the information delivered and to provide the students with a sense of accomplishment.
What are Zooniversity’s audience safety rules?
As you know, animal programs generate great student enthusiasm, but they also generate some unique challenges regarding audience management. We understand a child’s natural curiosity and love of animals, but that must be balanced with the needs of the animals and the safety of the audience. Because our animals are exotic and not domesticated, it is critical that the audience follow some simple rules:
- they must remain seated,
- they must avoid loud or sudden noises, and
- they must follow the presenter’s instructions at all times.
Teachers, librarians and adult leaders are required to stay and assist with audience management and will be expected to handle audience disruptions, so our zookeepers can concentrate on the presentation and safe animal handling. We reserve the right to not show the animals if the audience is disruptive or fails to follow the safety rules.
Can the audience touch the animals?
In our Classroom Critters programs, all of the students may touch the animals if they would like to. We teach and enforce a strict set of safety rules and we maintain control of the animals at all times—so everyone is perfectly safe. All participants are required to use an FDA-approved hand sanitizer that we provide at the end of the program. In addition, we always recommend that the students wash their hands with soap and water following the program.
Our Secular Teaching Approach
We teach secular curricula. We believe that our role is to teach zoological science and that the family’s role is to instill personal belief systems. Our personal beliefs will NEVER be evident to our students, but, as a “science” company, we DO teach currently-accepted scientific principles. Topics such as animal adaptations, natural selection, the impact of human intrusion, and climatic changes on wildlife are taught in our programs. If your family’s personal beliefs do not align with this approach to teaching zoology and conservation, then this is probably not the wildlife education company for you. Our mission is to instill a love of wildlife and nature by sharing the latest scientific information…we’ll leave the rest to you.
What kind of set-up do you need?
We conduct the program indoors—no mess involved. We no longer offer outdoor presentations. The presentation room must be a contained space with four walls and a door; an open atrium or lobby is not a safe, controllable environment. Please select a climate-controlled, ground floor location (we cannot climb stairs safely with crates, but elevators are acceptable). Avoid rooms with large mirrors, helium balloons or hanging decorations, as they frighten some animals. We just need a floor space big enough for all the audience to sit in a big horseshoe, either on the floor or in chairs. It is helpful if a 6 or 8-ft. table is provided for our use. If scheduling back-to-back programs, please set us up in a centralized presentation area and have the students rotate in-and-out. For obvious reasons, food and drink may not be in the presentation area. If there are classroom pets, please be sure they are secured and out of view of the presentation area. We require that teachers and adult leaders stay and assist us with classroom managements—they are welcome to touch, too!
What if we end up with more than 20 students?
These small group touch programs can only accommodate 20 sets of hands (more than that will overly stress our animals)—no exceptions. If you have more than 20 students, we can switch to a Stage Stars program, our traditional stage-style “no touch” program.
Can children younger than 6 years old participate?
Classroom Critters programs are designed for students older than 6 years of age. Children younger than 6 years are not to be included and should not be present in the animal area. For children ages 3 to 5 years, we recommend a Stage Stars program, our traditional stage-style program.
What about special needs students?
Your special needs students are welcome to attend, provided that they too can follow the safety rules, can stay seated, and can avoid making sudden movements or sounds. We suggest that you seat special needs students toward the rear of the horseshoe seating or next to a teacher, in case they need to leave the presentation area. We request that you privately inform the presenter of their seating location, so we can politely assist them if needed.
Can parents and other adults stay and watch?
Parents and other adults are welcome to stay and watch, but they too must follow the same safety rules. They should be seated; not coming-and-going or opening and closing doors that can startle the animals. Chatting adults sometimes don’t realize they are disrupting the program and are making it hard for the students to hear and for the presenter to speak over them. Please inform your adult guests that they are welcome to watch, but that chatting should be kept to a minimum. If your adult guests would like to share in conversation, please provide another area for them to visit. Our presenter will handle the children’s behavior, but we respectfully ask that you handle the adults!
Can we take pictures?
You are welcome to take still photographs during the show and flash photography is fine. Unfortunately, due to some unauthorized postings on the internet, we are no longer able to allow video or film recordings of our presentations. Our presentations are “our product,” so we hope you understand that we need to be able to protect our product from unauthorized use or distribution.
When will you arrive and will you need any help?
We will arrive 15-minutes before start time to set-up for the program. We would greatly appreciate a reserved parking space close to the unloading area and near the presentation space. We prefer that the audience not enter the presentation area until 5 minutes before show time and then enter as quietly as possible. If the audience must gather earlier in the presentation area, we will need a staff member to keep the audience at a safe distance from our crates while we unload and to assist us in keeping the waiting audience as quiet as possible.
How does the time scheduling work?
Be sure to book us at the time you want us to START the first program. When booking back-to-back programs, we recommend you allow up to 15 minutes between programs to allow for rotation of the audience. We request that you hold prizes or awards until after we’ve packed and left the presentation area. Please understand that we must stay on schedule, as we have other client commitments.
What is your payment process?
Deposits are not required from recognized businesses and organizations. Unless otherwise prearranged, payment in full is due upon arrival on the day of the event, prior to set-up, payable by cash, business check or money order. Personal checks will not be accepted from business clients. Payment by credit card is available with an additional a 3.5% convenience fee. Gratuities for the presenter are not required, but are gratefully accepted if you feel your presenter did an outstanding job or exceeded your expectations.